Jay Hopler was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1970 and he has earned degrees from New York University, The Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, The Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Purdue University, where he earned his doctorate in American Studies. His poems, essays and reviews have appeared, or are forthcoming, in numerous magazines, journals, anthologies and encyclopedias, including Boulevard, Colonial America: An Encyclopedia of Social, Political, Cultural and Economic History, Colorado Review, Columbia, Confrontation, Eclipse, Gulf Coast, The Iowa Review, The Journal, The Journal of Social History, The Kenyon Review, The Literary Review, Mid-American Review, The New Delta Review, New Voices: 1989—1998 (Academy of American Poets), The New Yorker, Pequod, Pleiades, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, POOL, Puerto Del Sol, Sonora Review, Under the Rock Umbrella: Modern American Poets from 1951—1976 (Mercer University Press), The Wallace Stevens Journal and Xantippe. Jay has received many awards for his poetry as well as his scholarship and his book, Green Squall (Yale University Press, 2006), was chosen by Louise Glück as the winner of the 2005 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Julie Platt writing in Mid-American Review called Green Squall “pure fire” and Publishers Weekly hailed the debut collection as “truly stunning.” His first scholarly publication, The Killing Spirit: An Anthology of Murder-for-Hire, was published by Overlook Press in 1996. The Midwest Book Review called The Killing Spirit “a seminal literary anthology and riveting reading” and it received a “star rating” in Book News. Jay is currently at work on The Alligator, his second book of poems, and on Roll Call of the Boneyard Heavies, a literary/cultural history of the American murder narrative. He is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing/Poetry at University of South Florida.


Green Squall at Yale University Press

3 Poems by Jay Hopler



                                   Being born is a shame—

But it’s not so bad, as journeys go. It’s not the worst one
We will ever have to make. It’s almost noon

And the light now clouded in the courtyard is
Like that light one finds in baby pictures: old

And pale and hurt—


When all roads are low and lead to the same
Place, we call it Fate and tell ourselves how

We were born to make the journey. Who’s
To say we weren’t?


                         The clouded light has changed to rain.
                         The picture—. No, the baby’s blurry.


That’s me—, the child playing in the sand with a pail
And shovel; in the background, my mother’s shadow

Is crawling across a soot-blackened collapse of brick
And timber, what might have been a bathhouse once.

The tide is coming in—. Someone has written HELL
On its last standing wall.

(“The Light One Finds in Baby Pictures” originally appeared
in The New Yorker)



There is a hole in the garden. It is empty. I envy it.

Emptiness: the only freedom there is
In a fallen world.


Father Sunflower, forgive me—. I have been so preoccupied with
         my backaches and my headaches,
With my sore back and my headaches and my beat-skipping heart,

I have ignored the subtle huzzah of the date palms and daisies, of
         the blue daze and the date palms—


                                   Or don’t forgive me, what do I care?
I am tired of asking for forgiveness; I am tired of being frightened
         all the time.
I want to run down the street with a vicious erection,
Impaling everything, screaming obscenities
And flapping my arms; fuck the date palms,
Fuck the daisies—


As a man, I am a disappointment, I know that.
Is it my fault I was born in shadow? Through the banyan trees,

An entourage of slovenly blondes
Comes naked and begging—


My days fly from me as though from a murderer.
Can you blame them?
Behind us, the house is empty and quiet as light.

What have I done, Mother,
That I should spend my life

(“And the Sunflower Weeps for the Sun, Its Flower” originally appeared
in Mid-American Review)


Now that the sun has set and the rain has abated,
And every porch light

                                 in the neighborhood is lit,
Maybe we can invent something; I’d like a new

Way of experiencing the world, a way of taking
Into myself the single light shining at the center

Of all things without losing the dense, eccentric
Planets orbiting around it.

                                 What you’d like is a more
Attentive lover, I suppose—. Too bad that slow,

Wet scorch of orange blossoms floating towards
The storm drain is not a vein of stars...we could

Make a wish on one of them; not that we would
Wish for anything but the impossible.

(“Out of These Wounds, the Moon Will Rise” originally appeared
in Pleiades)